White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci and Sen. Rand Paul got into a heated exchange at a Tuesday morning Senate hearing after Paul accused Fauci of lying to Congress over the National Institutes of Health funding a Wuhan lab that contributed to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Paul referred to a meeting Congress had with Fauci in May where Fauci said the NIH did not fund a gain-of-function project, which includes increasing the transmissibility of viruses, at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

On May 19, the NIH said in a statement it had supported previous grants to better understand viruses in bats and mammals, but had never approved a grant that would make COVID-19 more transmissible and lethal.

However, Paul insisted the research was funded by the NIH, and made it aware of the penalty for lying to Congress. The theory of the pandemic’s origins being linked to a Wuhan lab leak had been supported by people including former Vice President Mike Pence, despite research by team of virologists saying that is not true.

“Dr. Fauci, as you’re aware, it is a crime to lie to Congress,” Paul said. “On May 11, you stated that the NIH has not ever, and does not now fund game to function research and the Wuhan Institute of Virology. And yet, gain of function research was done entirely in the Wuhan Institute.”

Top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci responds to accusations by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., as he testifies before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee about the origin of COVID-19 on Tuesday.

Paul credited a research paper published in 2017 that states it was funded by the NIH that discovered new strains of SARS that would provide “new insights into the origin and evolution of SARS-CoV and highlights the necessity of preparedness for future emergence of SARS-like diseases.”

After Paul asked Fauci if he wanted to retract his previous statement, Fauci said he had never lied to Congress before.

“This paper that you’re referring to was judged by qualified staff, up and down the chain as not being gained of function,” Fauci said. “Sen. Paul, you do not know what you are talking about, quite frankly, and I want to say that officially. You do not know what you are talking about.”

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The two then began to talk over each other, before Paul said that Fauci was “dancing around” the idea the scientists took animal viruses and increased their transmissibility to humans.

“You’re trying to obscure responsibility for 4 million people dying around the world from a pandemic,” Paul said.

After being told to let Fauci speak, Fauci responded, “You are implying that what we did was responsible for the deaths of individuals. I totally resent that, and If anyone is lying here senator, it is you.”

When asked by Sen. Tina Smith if he had any other comments on Paul’s claim, Fauci said, “This is a pattern that Senator Paul has been doing now at multiple hearings based on no reality.

“I have never lied certainly not before Congress. Case closed,” he said.

This isn’t the first time the two have argued over this subject. Fauci had told Paul in September 2020 he was spreading misinformation about the virus, and in May, Paul had argued the virus possibly came from a Wuhan lab.

Paul said in March it was “theatre” for people who were previously infected with COVID-19 or received the vaccine to continue to wear masks.

Follow Jordan Mendoza on Twitter: @jord_mendoza.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fauci shouts at Rand Paul about COVID origin at Senate hearing

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